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Prepare for a parade of political donkeys

May 15. 2019
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By The Nation

Horse trading for Cabinet seats will soon be over, and once again the outcome is unlikely to serve the public well 

Thailand’s post-election horse trading – the making of the next government – is coming to an end as the medium-sized Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties are pressed hard to choose which coalition they will support.

The two parties have been beating about the bush because they believe their total seats – slightly over 100 in the 500-strong Parliament – can be leveraged to muster as many key Cabinet positions as possible.

On the Democrat side, then-party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva’s resolution to oppose junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha’s bid to return as the country’s leader did not go down as expected.

The public saw his statement, made just before the March 24 election, as a cheap ploy to return to Government House as prime minister; he was riding a wave of anti-military sentiment and expected Prayut to understand that. Fat chance.

In the end, the voters showed their weariness with the country’s oldest party by diverting their support to newcomer Future Forward, whose leadership is now being bullied by the authorities because of its strong anti-military stance.

Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul, meanwhile, continues to prevaricate on his party’s direction. He has vowed, though, that the party will only support a PM candidate who has the backing of a simple majority of MPs in Parliament – in other words one who is not reliant on the votes of an unelected Senate. That latest stance was a little clearer but still too hypothetical.

The horse trading is especially frenzied after this election because neither the pro- nor the anti-junta bloc has been able to muster enough MPs for a simple majority in the 500-member House of Representatives.

The pro-military coalition got a boost this week when 11 minor parties, each with one parliamentary seat received through a controversial counting method, announced they would join the junta-backed Phalang Pracharat to form a government and back Prayut’s bid to return as PM.

Prayut admitted that the party was already considering how to allocate ministerial positions.

Negotiations over Cabinet seats are a longstanding reality of Thai politics, but they invariably serve the private interests of politicians rather than the public interest of those who vote for them.

Obsessed with who’s getting what, politicians overlook the need to place qualified people in vital ministerial posts to best serve the people. 

The modern world and the challenges that come with it are complex and cannot be tackled effectively by egotistical politicians who treat the political arena as a personal competition. Only when leaders prioritise putting the right man in the right job, rather than their man in any job, will Thailand escape this cycle of misrule. Accountability and competency must be at the top of their agenda.

The Democrats are expected to elect a new leader today and, with that, their stance should be known.

Bhumjaithai is scheduled to meet next Monday, when it is very likely to announce which coalition it will join.

The anti-military coalition is not making it easy for Anutin; already it is dangling top positions in his face – possibly the prime minister’s post.

Seripisut Temiyave, an outspoken figure in the anti-military coalition, told Anutin in public that he should join the Pheu Thai Party-led block, saying the party is willing to give him even the post of PM.

Both Seripisut Anutin apparently fail to understand that governance is not about them, but about the well-being of the country’s people. Although Thai politicians’ attitude and behaviour don’t always reinforce this noble notion, the least they could do is disguise their failing. Especially when speaking in public.

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